Bush, Fundamentalism, and the Meaning of Life


Oct 25, 2005
This thread has its provenance in a series of digressive posts concerning Lincoln High School.
The latest poll figures show that 34% of the US population still approves of George W. Bush. Now some of us have been speculating for a while on how anyone could be so stupid as to still back him (unless of course they were military-industrial contractors: the US economy is gradually becoming a permanent war economy). We have now found an answer to our question in a bit of video footage. I particularly recommend this to Argentines as it affords a rare glimpse into the American (i.e. US) psyche:
When people have so much of their self image or identify bound to an institution, then they are not likely to question that institution. The state of education in the US is very poor. If I had children, their education would be parochial school supplemented by regular home study. The most important thing would be to inculcate an intense curiosity and work ethic.
At the risk of stepping on some toes, Fundamenalists do not have the reputation of having a strong intellectual tradition. In fact they are often considered to be anti-intellectual. This is strongly evidenced by the absence of a 'Fundamentalist' art. Fundamentalists, unable to answer the liberalism of mainstream Protestantism from their own tradition, severed the intellect from their faith. Fundamentalist effectually 'plucked' out the 'offending eye'. This truncated or amputated faith, though very real, is vulnerable to novel questions concerning their faith. Particularly questions which do not have parallels to questions that have already been answered and accepted within their own tradition. It also leaves Fundamentalist susceptible to the sophistry of propaganda. Particularly propaganda from a leader they self-identify with.
Born-again Christians have strong family values:
Claude Allen, a prominent conservative who had become the highest-ranking African-American on the White House staff, resigned his post last month after telling the president that he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Allen, 45, is a born-again Christian and former lawyer who joined the administration in 2001 and was appointed domestic policy adviser at the start of Bush’s second term.
Of course the usual cynics and detractors are saying the real cause was something else:
Yesterday it emerged that Allen had been interviewed by police in early January after he allegedly left a Maryland shop with goods he had not paid for. He was arrested last week and charged with two counts of theft that carry maximum sentences of 15 years in jail.
According to police statements, employees at a Target superstore in Gaithersburg, a Washington suburb, noticed Allen putting merchandise in a shopping bag. He also had items in a trolley. He allegedly walked over to a cashier, produced a receipt for similar goods, and said he was returning the items and wanted a refund.
Shop staff have alleged he was reimbursed for the goods he claimed to be returning, and then left the store with other items he had not paid for. He was challenged in the car park.
A police spokesman claimed a subsequent investigation uncovered 25 cases where Allen had allegedly obtained refunds from Target and another store for goods he had not purchased.
“He would buy items, take them out to his car and return to the store with the receipt,” a police statement said. “He would select the same items he had just purchased and then return them for a refund.”
Police said the goods included a home stereo system, clothes, a photo printer and smaller items worth as little as £1.45.
Allen lives with his wife and four children in a £600,000 home in Gaithersburg. His lawyer Mallon Snyder told reporters the incidents were a “series of misunderstandings” and Allen denied any wrongdoing.
Lies, all lies. As if the people at the helm of US affairs are a bunch of kleptomaniacs.
(The website for the quotes above is: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2081791,00.html )
I can't say that I've ever heard of Claude Allen. But I haven't been politically active for several years. If he has written anything, I haven't read it. Just because someone is a member of the Republican Party or is a official in a Republican administration does not make them a conservative. If he was part of the Bush administration, I doubt that he would satisfy my conception of a conservative. Mr. Allen will likely get his wish. He will be spending more time with his family. At most, it is only a remote possibility that he will see any jail time. Politically influential people are all but immune from prosecution for all but the most serious offences. And generally only then to serve as a fallguy for someone more powerful. Here the circumstances rule that out. Not unless Bush was 'shopping' with him that is. He'll likely get probation and some counseling.
But exceptions aside, 'Born-Again' Christians often do have strong family values. But of course they are not the only ones who have strong family values. I can't see how agressive war, torture, etc. are family values though. The primary problem with Fundamentalists' family values is that it is more a product of the culture they grew up in, than being formed by their faith. It may be informed by their faith certainly, but it is usually not a product of it. Two examples would be contraception and divorce/remarriage. Both at one time were rejected by Fundamentalists as well as all Christians. But as the broader culture changed, so the Fundamentalists opposition changed to acceptance. Now though divorce and remarriage are widely accepted among them, it is still not considered the ideal. Contraception however is seen as an important part of stewardship. The former opposition was cultural, not theological; at least not in a broad sense.
It should be little surprise that a politician is a hypocrite. Of course evangelicals or fundamentalist aren't the only hypocrites. To point out a parallel, 'Blackjack' Bennett, a fellow Catholic, a year or so ago was revealed to have a substantial gambling problem. Judging by the amount he lost at least. Of course all of us are hypocrites to a greater or lesser extent. If you're not, you probably aren't setting your standards high enough.
"Harold" said:
It should be little surprise that a politician is a hypocrite. Of course evangelicals or fundamentalist aren't the only hypocrites. To point out a parallel, 'Blackjack' Bennett, a fellow Catholic, a year or so ago was revealed to have a substantial gambling problem. Judging by the amount he lost at least. Of course all of us are hypocrites to a greater or lesser extent. If you're not, you probably aren't setting your standards high enough.
Ah yes, "Blackjack" Bennett. Another hilarious case. When questioned about his losses, he maintained that the casinos weren't advertising all the times he had won -- as if casinos want to be known as place where you lose your shirt. Before I forget, I should mention Jimmy Swaggart: a prominent televangelical twenty years ago.
I mention names like this not because they're aberrations but because they're not. They just go a bit further. Hypocrisy is an inherent part of the evangelical racket. Guilt is built into it.
I also just remembered Pat Robertson, who advocated the assassination of Hugo Chavez not so long ago.
It is generally said that Catholics hold on to their guilt, that old 'Catholic guilt' thing. I'm don't buy into it. Catholics have a way of dealing with sin; contrition, confession and penance. Sin countered by the Grace of the Sacrament. Now of course if you don't avail yourself of the sacrament, then you will have that persistant guilt. Unless you let your conscience to atrophy. Fundamentalists don't really have a way to deal with it. Particularly if they believe 'once saved always saved'.
After more than 30 years as a Chicago public school teacher, Betti Ziemba decided to chuck it all and bolt Hyde Park Career Academy in midyear. Why?
"I left out of fear,'' Ziemba said last week. "I've had it. I quit. There's no way I'm going back there.''
Teachers say the spike in violence is taking a toll on them. At Hyde Park, which saw the biggest rise in reported violence since 2004, at least three teachers and a programmer left in the middle of this school year. Two -- Ziemba and one other -- openly conceded that safety concerns pushed them out.
Another teacher, Marie Chavez, says she won't return next school year because of lack of support in addressing rising violence and discipline problems. More paperwork than ever is required of teachers, who must document at least four "disruptive'' incidents per student before administrators step in, she said.
"I try to stay in my classroom, but I hear fights all the time,'' Chavez said. "I close my door because I feel if I step out I might get attacked."
At Wells, 936 N. Ashland, English teacher Joshua Strend says a new culture of violence is driving away new teachers.
"After last year we lost a lot of good young teachers who decided if this is how it's going to be, they will look elsewhere," said Strend, the Wells teachers union representative.
But the last straw was an incident last October. A sophomore lingered in class after second-period English and told her: "Miss Ziemba, they are coming to get me.''
As Ziemba moved to close the door, a swarm of angry students mobbed the entry.
"Kids started to push -- I'd say 30 to 50 people, guys and girls. And I knew none of them,'' Ziemba said. "I was almost trampled.''
Seeing the stampede, union rep John Kugler grabbed a pipe and jumped in to help.
"They were actually trying to kill somebody in there,'' said Kugler, the architectural drafting teacher. "There was no stopping them. I had to have a pipe in my hand to drag people out of the room. They were crawling over the chairs to get him. . . .
"They were saying, 'Get him. Kill him. Jump him.'"
The mob was finally dispersed without injury, but even Kugler was shaken.
"I locked my door for two periods,'' he said.
Though she wrote up the incident, Ziemba said, administrators never talked to her about punishing the orchestrator, who lived in the Calumet High attendance area that's been sending freshmen to Hyde Park.
Eventually Ziemba told officials at the end of the first semester she wouldn't be returning.
But as a result, Ziemba said, "I'm unemployed. I have no money coming in. I have two car payments coming due. I was hoping to retire this year, but I can't because [by leaving in midyear] I won't have 34 years in. . . . I'm in limbo.''
I'm thirty-seven and graduated from high school in 1987. Things have surely changed over the years. I believe I got my first paddling in the second grade, Mr. McGee. He was a mean one. One of his favourite things, when the offence did not quite reach the paddling level, would be to have the student sit down with his legs stretched out facing the wall and have the student hold his arms out for a protracted length of time. By the time I reached high school teachers could not use corporal punishment anymore. It was referred to the principal. If I recall correctly I was paddled twice in high school.
Middle Eastern anger over the decision by the US to block a Dubai company from buying five of its ports hit the dollar yesterday as a number of central banks said they were considering switching reserves into euros.
The United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai, said it was looking to move one-tenth of its dollar reserves into euros, while the governor of the Saudi Arabian central bank condemned the US move as "discrimination".
Separately, Syria responded to US sanctions against two of its banks by confirming plans to use euros instead of dollars for its external transactions.
The remarks combined to knock the dollar, which fell against the euro, pound and yen yesterday as analysts warned other central banks might follow suit.
This may or may not turn into something serious. However it does indicate how vulnerable the dollar is. Since 1973, the dollar has been de facto oil-backed, i.e. people have been willing to accept dollars as payment because they've known that they can always be exchanged for oil (before 1971, the dollar was gold-backed). If oil-producing countries signal an unwillingness to accept dollars, the collapse of the dollar can probably not be staved off for more than a few weeks (days?). The US will probably undertake draconian military measures (a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, etc.). Don't want to frighten people, and I don't think it's imminent, but the dollar has to devalue against other currencies sooner or later, and when it does happen, it will probably assume crisis proportions -- i.e., it won't be something that can be smoothly managed.
Anyway: if there are any in the expat community with heavy exposure in dollars, they might like to consider diversifying. I'm out of dollars to the maximum extent I can be and I know one other gent who has also recently minimised his dollar exposure.
"nashorama" said:
Bigbadwolf, you trouble-maker:

During Clinton's last two months in office I cashed in all USA holdings in the NYSE as well as all real estate, cars, nickels earned at my last garage sale and used those Dollars to buy Euros which were still very new and cost about 78 cents to the all mighty Buck.
The euro sunk to 83 US cents, after starting at about 1.20 (which is where it's right now). It took over a year, maybe two or three years(?) to reverse its position with the dollar.
As a relative of mine who lives in the USA recently mentioned in an e-mail, (quite innocently, I might add), "A million dollars doesn't buy what it used to."
In terms of property, sure. Several regions of the US market are overheated -- and indeed rising prices have helped sustain the US economy in its time of need. Related to this, construction is one sector that has been doing reasonably. And of course the military-industrial sector has been buoyed up as well. But in the brave new world we now inhabit, no-one knows for sure what's going to happen when the property market suffers an inevitable and lasting correction. And with each interest rate rise, the day of reckoning becomes ever closer. Of course, the raison d'etre for the interest rate rises is to prop the dollar up (and not because of inflationary pressures, which is the ostensible reason).
Of course, this is all qualitative and loose reasoning. I don't have access to a macroeconomic model I can play around with to check various scenarios.

And what does all this have to do with this strange thread about fundamentalists, ultra conservatives, and supporters of Bush? Well, last night I was dragged against my will to dine with a bunch of fresh-off-the-cruise-boat-folks visiting BsAs for their first, (and probably last), time. They were very representative of the fundamentalist, conservative types you and Harold have made reference to, (note, I did not categorically write Christians, Jews, or Muslims or people of faith). I asked them what has gone wrong with Bush. They said nothing has gone wrong with Bush. Then I gently pushed that it seemed to me that the USA, (a place I rather like a great deal), had voted a royal flush, as it were, into office six years ago that originally had the opportunity to do great things for the United States and the World. I asked, "What happened?" For the first time no one wrapped him or her self in the flag and said I was a bad person. I didn't even hear the ditto head cheer "Godless liberal!" Someone might have yelled, "Sing Free Bird!", but that was at another table, another conversation. Among the boat people there was just a general consensus that stuff had happened and things had gone wrong and they did not know why. For me this was not exactly a satisfying moment of shadenfruede. It just reminded me how disconnected everyone is with life and their role in it; best evidenced by the observation that Americans don't have friends, instead they have Friends on TV. So, this brings me to the US Dollar and how I agree with you that soon the world will not have a US Dollar, but it will have a US Dollar in its collective memory -- for better or worse.
Yes, well, such people will have voted for GWB to a man (and woman). Not that it makes much difference -- the choice is between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Both are fronts for corporate capital. US hegemony is probably coming to an end, and I don't know what will emerge -- maybe something similar to the interwar years (1919-1939), when Pax Britannica had come to an end, and Pax Americana was yet to be established.

Cheers and here's hoping there's a chance tulips and daffodils are threatening to spring up in Minnesotta.

We had 8 inches of snow on Monday, and we had about another 7 inches on Wednesday night. No light at the end of the tunnel. Last year it was snowing on May 1. I try to keep a stiff upper lip, but sometimes I feel like breaking into tears. Ah, the climate of Buenos Aires ...